A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Election timing

Having been swept along with General Election hype over the last two weeks I have now taken a deep breath and tried to think through whether I believe this is a good idea.

On the plus side:

- The Party at a national level is very much ready to fight an election - why stop now when everything is geared up and ready to go?
- I think there's a genuine chance of net Labour gains in terms of votes and seats compared to 2005.
- There's a strategic opportunity to stop Cameron's renewal of the Tories in its tracks and put them in a position where they have expended the best leader they are likely to have in the near future and made no progress - it could even trigger a split or realignment on the right.
- Will we be able to sustain an 11% lead in the polls until a later date?
- It gives voters a chance to say whether they want Brown as PM.

On the minus side:

- Time would be helpful in terms of organisational preparation at a constituency level (though that cuts both ways and would allow the Tories more time to spend Ashcroft's millions).
- The polls are volatile - it would be good to see a longer run of poll leads.
- Do we have a real handle on the regional trends and the trends in marginal seats behind the recent poll leads? An 11% national lead is not much use if it is all stacked up in safe seats not marginals, or if losses to the SNP offset gains from the Tories.
- Risk that voters see it as an unnecessary poll as we have 3 years of mandate left and punish us.
- November is going to be cold and dark which will militate against effective campaigning and inevitably depress turnout, which will be bad for democracy and probably disproportionately impact on Labour.
- If we are confident of our ability to govern and that we have new policy ideas - the answer to which is yes on both counts - then these should feed through in to a sustained poll lead - maybe even a growing one - so the risk that "we'll never be 11% ahead again" is actually one that it is in our power as the party in government to remove. Maybe we can even build a bigger lead?
- The strategic objective of halting Cameron and his phony modernisation project can be achieved without a quick General Election if we are confident we can sustain or build our position in the polls. Because most Tories don't actually buy into his vision, if we are ahead for months, not weeks, they will launch a leadership coup against him and destroy themselves before a General Election.
- From a purely London point-of-view there is a tactical advantage to holding the General Election in May on the same day as the Mayor and GLA elections to increase turnout and campaigning activity in these, which would help Ken see off Boris and help keep the BNP off the GLA.

Personally I love election campaigns and can't think of any better way to spend the next month - and I know that most Labour colleagues are ready and waiting for the balloon to go up - but - and it's a very balanced and marginal decision (and one where unlike the decision-maker I don't have a full deck of polling data or insight into the potential threats coming up on the political and economic horizon) - on balance I think I would play it long and not go for an election this side of Spring.


Anonymous GW said...

There is another problem. In Wales & Jockland many Labour Party actavists will have run out of annual leave. The Sennedd and Scots Parliament and local Bye - elections has seen leave exhausted.

I am afraid in November in Wales the rain and the hail can fall horizontally. Far better hold on till May, and use the extra turn out to destroy the Nats at local level.

12:42 pm, October 04, 2007

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

On balance I'd say he is making all the noises for Nov poll.
As GW rightly points out Scotland as a watchword. Our scottish MPs are willing him not to do it as the Nats are doing well. I even heard a rumour that Wee Ek was planning to stand in Gordon's seat. I am sure that is not going to happen, but if it did he must be sure there are votes out there to be won.

2:36 pm, October 04, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

You can "think of nothing better" than a General Election campaign.... yeah, right. My guess is Brown will bottle it....the Iraq stunt didn't work and Cameron came across well yesterday

4:01 pm, October 04, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

"Cameron came across well yesterday"? Are you going soft in the head Susan?

The Tories laughed and clapped in ALL THE WRONG PLACES for the myth that the Tories have changed. Their Environmental debate was full of hand picked madcap mavericks. Their Youth stunt is unravelling. Osborne's budget speech has been taken apart and shown to be fibulous.

Personally I'd rather not waste a good election on just doing the HoP when we can sort out Town Halls or Brussels as well. I'd prefer 09.

But it is up to Gordon. He has more facts at his fingertips. He might have been better suggesting he was going to wait. Unless that is the whole thing has been a glorious wind up to smoke the Tories out with some nonsense and waste some of their money. And get them to rush selections.

He may have lost the element of surprise if he does go now. But why are you addressing the whole matter in these macho terms of bottling it etc. The Tory call for an election is like the black knight in Holy Grail.

Iraq has seen/is seeing a draw down of troops over the second half of 2007. Good thing. News management wasn't great. But so it goes. Better one or two weeks before announcement than the same day.

Whenever he does it we will win. Britain will win.

It almost sounds Susan btw, if I might be so bold, that you WANT it to go badly for Labour. Is that it?

4:27 pm, October 04, 2007

Blogger Hughes Views said...

Interesting little theory in the comments on Iain Dale's allegedly splendid blog. Is GB clever enough to have talked up an election just so that the rumblings in the Tory party would die down and Dave would therefore survive a potentially bloody conference? Perhaps he wants to ensure that the Tory toff is still in charge when the June 2009 election takes place (on the same day as the euro and local ones). Or not?

Anyway if the news about the latest polls is true and the phoney election is off it'll be the first time I've ever been pleased to see the Tories gaining in the opinion polls. I prefer campaigning when the tree leaves are new rather than when they're clogging up the gutters and making the pavements slippery...

5:09 pm, October 04, 2007

Anonymous GW said...

Perhaps "Obnoxious up North" will make the supream sacrifice for the benefit of the Labour Party.

Become an active member of the Conservative Party.

Just think how many seats Labour might have won in Hebden Bridge if that had been the case.

8:28 pm, October 04, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

If the Scottish dimesion does loom large in Gordon Brown's election timing strategy, there is no way we are heading for an early one.

I have to say that it is one unfortunate episode after another up here with regard to the inability of most Labour MSPs and , very definately, almost all Scottish Labour MPs to come to terms with the new reality after the last Scottish election.

... and meantime all the while... Scottish voters who had voted tribal for Labour for so long before going SNP, are gradually getting used to life after they 'jumped ship' and found that the world did not come to an end.

9:10 pm, October 04, 2007

Blogger Merseymike said...

I thought Cameron was vacuous. Well presented but very little to really say. The figures don't add up.

10:40 pm, October 04, 2007


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